It’s impossible to talk about Sunday’s game without talking about Joe Burrow.
Burrow suffered a nasty leg injury and was carted off the field. On Monday, we found out he tore his ACL, MCL, and had some other damage. The remedy is reconstructive surgery and rehab this offseason.
No doubt that this injury will have lasting effects on the whole team. The Bengals may not win another game this season.
Joe Burrow was the heartbeat of the team
When Burrow went down, the injury demoralized the entire team.
The offense obviously missed their most talented player in terms of X’s and O’s. But the offense didn’t play with the same heart after Burrow left the game. The Bengals only gained 17 yards on the 18 plays they ran with Finley under center. Not all of it can be chalked up to a less talented replacement. The Bengals just didn’t put their heart in it.
The same can be said for the defense. Washington gained 186 yards of offense on the next four drives. They only had 133 up to that point in the game on the previous six possessions. The yardage translated into points, which is how the Bengals ended up losing by 11.
All of this points to Burrow’s leadership and locker room presence. A rookie only ten games into his career wouldn’t normally have this much of an impact.
That is how special he is and much the Bengals will need him back next year.
William Jackson and Carl Lawson are priorities this offseason
William Jackson and Carl Lawson are both set to be free agents after this year, and both are playing in top form right now.
Jackson and Lawson both helped the defense play as well as they did for the first part of the game. Lawson got to Alex Smith and kept him off balance.
Jackson did a great job on containing Terry McLaurin for the most part. He did give up one 42-yard catch that set up a touchdown, but that was a perfect throw and a perfect catch on a play where Jackson had pretty good coverage. Other than that, McLaurin only had four catches for 40 yards. Not bad for a receiver who averaged exactly 100 yards over the previous three games.
The Bengals will have a top-five pick again this year
It’s quite realistic that the Bengals don’t win another game his season. This means the Bengals might have pick No. 3 pick locked up.
The Jets (0-10) and the Jaguars (1-9) are the only teams with fewer wins than the Bengals. Because of the Bengals’ tie, they will need to win three games to move behind the Bengals.
The Bengals will play the Giants, Texans, and Giants later this year, who are all 3-7. If the Bengals lose those games, that will further cement them in the top three.
If the Bengals win one of those games, then they could still pick in the top five.
The first two picks will most likely be quarterbacks this year, so the Bengals could pick whoever they want if they get the third overall pick.
There’s a lot to learn about Zac Taylor
If we thought the drop-off from Andy Dalton to Finley was steep, imagine what the Burrow to Finley contrast will be like.
Will the Bengals play like the 2019 Bengals that scored only 11 points per game with Finley? Will there be any offensive production outside of Burrow?
Even if Brandon Allen starts, who was just signed off the practice squad, he won’t be much better. In three games with Denver last season, Allen had a quarterback rating of 35.4.
Zac Taylor has to prove that he can run an offense that can actually score points without Burrow. He has to prove that he isn’t just the coach that lost enough games to draft the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck.
Here’s why this is important: the Bengals have to be sure Taylor is the coach of the future. Burrow will paid a lot of money when he’s eligible for an extension, and when that happens, it will be a lot more difficult for the Bengals to put a complete team around him.
The Bengals need to turn things around now. If Taylor isn’t the one to do it, then the Bengals need to find someone else.
In a normal year, the Bengals would probably have a hard time finding a head coach. Now, with Burrow and Tee Higgins on rookie contracts, and Joe Mixon and Tyler Boyd under team control for the next few years, the Bengals are a much more attractive landing spot for an aspiring head coach. Eric Bienemy, Joe Brady, or whoever the top coaching prospects are would love to coach a team with these weapons.
So retaining a head coach that can’t win without Burrow (and can barely ever win with him for that matter) might set the Bengals back a few years.
If Taylor wants to keep his job, he has to show he can lead this team to wins.
Then again, he could be the Bengals head coach for another 15 years.